Practical insights for compliance and ethics professionals and commentary on the intersection of compliance and culture.

Ethical leadership of Bozoma Saint John

Bozoma Saint John is the Chief Brand Officer at Uber.  She has captured tons of industry and media attention both in and out of Silicon Valley for her bold statements about diversity, inclusion, corporate culture, and professional development.

Below are just a few examples of the themes on which Saint John has set a striking example of ethical leadership:

  • Female decision-making: In this Refinery29 feature from International Women’s Day, Saint John called out Whitney Wolfe Herd, founder & CEO of the female-driven dating app Bumble. Saint John focused on Herd’s product’s approach of putting women in charge as decision-makers, stating that women must overcome the traditional habit of “‘waiting to be asked’ for promotions, salary increases and a whole host of other connected behaviors”:  Top Women In Tech Name The Women Who Inspire Them
  • Transparency: Organizational integrity relies upon effective communication, for which radical transparency must be integrated into all levels of the corporate culture.  Saint John recognizes that especially in the high-tech industry, transparency is crucial to provide meaningful connections to humanity as well as inspire consumer trust and loyalty.  Speaking at SXSW, she said, “It’s very important that we’re using this moment in time to understand what our humanity is… It is about transparency at the end of the day”: Uber Discusses Diversity, Flying Cars
  • Racial inclusion as competitive strategy: Also at SXSW, Saint John addressed the importance of genuine racial inclusion driven by the entire tech industry as a way to move the business forward.  Much as Tony’s Chocolonely has sought to use its own fair trade business practices to impact the supply chain in the chocolate industry (check out this post for more information), Saint John suggests that white men in charge at Uber and other Silicon Valley companies should take responsibility for increasing racial inclusion in corporations to make boardrooms more resemble society, and therefore more engaging and appealing to consumers and stakeholders: “It’s not up to one company – it’s up to the entire industry to make sure we are moving the conversation forward.  Sometimes those walls of competition need to come down so we can move the entire industry forward”:  Tillerson, United, the SEC, Bozoma Saint John – Your Week (so far) in Messaging
  • Self-development through adversity: Saint John speaks repeatedly of the trials and tribulations of her experiences as a black woman in a senior executive position in an industry still dominated by white men.  Saint John says, “If you want to shine like a diamond, you have to be willing to get cut.”  Saint John speaks openly about the “micro aggressions” along the way in pursuit of ambitious goals, and the self-doubt and damage it can cause to a burgeoning professional.  Her wise advice is to turn to inner success and “to constantly remind yourself that I am actually talented at this and I do this better than anyone else… Then all a sudden, other people start joining the bandwagon and praising the work I do and I’m like ‘I told you I was great’”:  Uber’s Chief Brand Officer – “I Am Going To Be Great Right Now”
  • Organizational integrity requires personal integrity: Saint John has the difficult task of rehabilitating Uber’s corporate culture after a controversial year filled with missteps and poor crisis and change management.  Saint John takes her task to improve consumer engagement and loyalty at Uber personally.  While being careful to acknowledge that there’s a whole team working on brand and cultural engagement, not just relying on her own efforts, Saint John has a genuine individual commitment to the values of her task, saying it’s her “personal mission”:  Bozoma Saint John:  I’m on a ‘personal mission’ to help fix Uber

To take a deeper look at Saint John’s personal background and the specific challenges she’s taking on at Uber and in Silicon Valley, check out this profile of her in the Financial Times.  For another round-up on Saint John’s insights for personal and professional greatness, confidence, and motivation, check out this feature from Entrepreneur.

For more on ethical leadership, check out this post, which is the last in a series on sports coaches as ethical leaders (the introduction contains links to all previous posts in the series).

Leave a Reply